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If you’re part of the creative team at an ad agency, there’s a good chance you’ll be asked to do a creative audit for a client (or potential client) at some point. This is much like participating in a design critique with a few added considerations. But don’t worry if you’ve never done a critique, if you’re not a designer, or if you’re just not sure where to start; these tips and checklists will help guide you through what you should look for when performing a creative audit.

Best Practices

Whether a creative asset follows best practices is based on what type of asset it is and what platform it will appear on. In the scope of digital marketing, we see four main categories of assets when auditing creative: banner ads, video ads, landing pages, and app store previews. Here are some best practices* to look for in each category, with some examples of creative and video designed by the 3Q Creative team. 

*This is by no means a comprehensive list of best practices, but rather a general overview of what to look for from a designer’s perspective. There are other factors to consider — such as data from testing existing creative — for in-depth audits.

Banner Ads

  • Shows the logo and follows brand guidelines
  • Features compelling copy
  • Has a relevant CTA
  • Uses a platform-appropriate color scheme (e.g. use colors other than blue on Facebook)
  • Matches the look and feel of the corresponding landing page (if applicable)

Video Ads

  • Shows the logo in all frames or at the beginning and end
  • Follows brand guidelines, including on-brand music (if applicable)
  • Is an appropriate length for the platform and targeted funnel
  • Captures attention within the first few seconds
  • Makes sense without sound or utilizes captions when muted
  • Has a relevant CTA

Landing Pages

  • Shows the logo and follows brand guidelines
  • Features elements that encourage conversion
    • Sticky or repeated CTAs
    • Compelling copy
    • No unnecessary roadblocks to conversion
  • Is well-organized and easy to navigate

App Store Optimization (ASO)

  • Shows the logo and follows brand guidelines
  • Entices the viewer in first visible screenshots
    • Showcases the most unique features of the app
    • Uses video to capture attention (optional)
  • Shows a phone frame that doesn’t detract from the app UI, or shows no phone frame at all
  • Uses concise headlines to effectively market the app’s value propositions

Design Principles

Even if a creative asset follows the best practices above, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it follows the principles of good design. Sometimes you’ll need to make a judgment call on whether it’s necessary to sacrifice a best practice for good design (or vice versa). Let’s take a look at a few key design basics that can transform creative from average to scroll-stopping.

Color Theory

Colors work best when meaningfully chosen, even if the brand color palette is limited. In general, colors should not be vibrating against each other, unless the effect is in line with the brand’s aesthetic and/or the asset is attempting to catch people’s eye through visual discomfort. Also, your personal dislike of a color or color combo shouldn’t get in the way of objectively critiquing color choices.

Element Hierarchy

Unless stated otherwise in the brand guidelines or for a specific concept:

The headline should be the most prominent text, followed by the subhead, then by body copy (dependent on whether all of these are present). And if a CTA is present, it should appear balanced with the text elements, neither overpowering nor dwarfing the copy. Similarly, graphic elements and imagery should be supportive of, rather than competing with, the text.

Balanced Layout

Balance in an asset depends much on element hierarchy, as mentioned above. Look for symmetry in the creative, unless asymmetry is intentional. Is there an even weight of elements spread across the canvas, perhaps based on a grid? And is there enough white space to allow the viewer’s eye areas to rest? Or is there so much white space that it’s distracting?

Concept

The concept behind a piece of creative, especially a banner or video ad, helps fulfill a client’s main campaign objectives, such as target a certain audience, advertise for a promotion, or market their value props. Here are some questions to ask yourself when analyzing concepts:

  • What is the objective for this creative, and what platform will it appear on? Is the approach appropriate?
  • Does the concept make sense? Is it easy to understand?
  • Do the copy and imagery tie together?
  • Is there a way to make it more eye-catching or impactful?
  • Is it on-brand? Or does it risk creating a disconnect between the creative and brand recognition?

Competition

Referencing competitors’ creative can inspire and reinforce your recommendations. Learn what others are doing right by looking at competitors’ creative — not to steal ideas, but to encourage more creativity and a fresh perspective. It can also help you draw comparisons and point out different ways to test concepts across platforms.

Conclusion

A creative audit can be a daunting task if you don’t know where to start. Looking at whether the assets follow best practices, are well-designed, utilize effective concepts, and what competitors are doing can help steer you in the right direction and give valuable insights. If you have questions about creative audits or are looking for a creative team to help you with one, we’d love to work with you!